Perforated Homalopoma Sanguineum from Tito Bustillo (Asturias): Mobility of Magdalenian Groups in Northern Spain

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The Cave of Tito Bustillo

The Cave of Tito Bustillo is in the karstic massif of Ardines, in eastern-most Asturias, which contains other well-known prehistoric caves (La Lloseta, La Cuevona, Les Pedroses or El Cierro). The cave is located c. 200 m from the left bank of the Sella River, 1 km from the modern estuary (6-7 km in the Magdalenian). The coastal landscape is typically Cantabrian: mountains near the sea and two circulation networks at right angles (the coastal corridor and the valley of the Sella).

There are two prehistoric areas of the cave: the Living Area (Area de Estancia) (its former entrance covered by a collapse) and the Area of the Paintings (Area de las Pinturas) (below the principal panel of the paintings, discovered in 1968). The first excavations were by M.A. Garcia Guinea (1970) and renewed by A. Moure Romanillo (1975) (Garcia Guinea 1975; Moure Romanillo 1975; 1989; 1990; 1997; Moure Romanillo & Cano Herrera 1976).

The excavations of the Living Area found two stratigraphic levels inside the collapse, covering about 20 sq. m. Level 1 had numerous hearths and human activity in less than 50 cm, comprising an Upper Complex (Level 1-1c.1) and a Lower Complex (Level 1c.2-1c.4). Both complexes have similar Magdalenian industries. Level 2 was a period of sedimentary activity in the cave. The excavations in the area of the paintings documented a hearth for illumination and some technological remains related to the execution of the paintings and engravings on the wails (fragments of colouring, lithics with use-wear marks, etc.). The archaeological radiometric dating suggest the same date of approximately between the end of the Middle Magdalenian and the beginning of the Early Upper Magdalenian (Moure Romanillo 1997) (TABLE 1).

Some 13 radiocarbon measurements, obtained from charcoal, bone and marine shells, span the time interval from archaeological level 2 at the base of the Magdalenian sequence (Ly-4212: 14,890 [+ or -] 410; Moure 1989) to level la (weighted mean of CSIC-154 and CSIC-261: 14,228 [+ or -] 154; Moure 1975; 1989) at the top of the stratigraphy. Thus Tito Bustillo is a key stratigraphy for the transition from the Late Middle (former Magdalenian IV) to the Early Upper Magdalenian (former Magdalenian V). FIGURE 1 shows the calibrated radiocarbon ages of the levels 2, 1c, 1b/c and 1a in their palaeoclimatological context, roughly between 16,000 and 14,500 cal BC (FIGURE 1). (1) Two (14) C dates from marine shells from Tito Bustillo (CSIC-155A and CSIC-155B) have been discarded because of palaeo-reservoir values (cf. Rubinos Perez et al. 1999: 50) and samples I-8331, I-8332 and OxA-6262 because of stratigraphical unreliability.


Art from Tito Bustillo: Homalopoma sanguineum L.

Tito Bustillo has one of the most important Cantabrian collections of decorative art, rivaled only by the Cave of Las Caldas (Priorio, Asturias). Antler, bone or teeth of different animals (goat, red deer, etc.) were utilized for decorative art, and various perforated marine molluscs are equally abundant, particularly Littorina obtussata L. and Trivia sp. (2)

There are at least eight examples of Homalopoma sanguineum L. (FIGURE 2). This gastropod of the family Turbinidae (Subclass: Prosobranchia; Order: Archeogastropoda) is extremely small (3.5-4 mm high and c. 6.5 mm wide, and has five tight, slightly dense spirals decorated with delicate bands on the lower part, and a reddish-pink rounded opening (FIGURES 3a & 3b). This herbivorous snail lives and feeds in colonies of algae, inhabiting rocks and other surfaces in the Mediterranean (Fechter & Falkner 1993: 48; Riedl 1986: 275; Stiner 1999; Strauch & Tembrock 1978: 232; Taborin 1993: 354).


All the specimens are from the 1975 excavations of A. Moure (Level 1c of the Living Area of the site (now Levels 1c2-1c4 of the Lower Complex), in Square XII F (Moure Romanillo & Cano Herera 1975: 108; Moure Romanillo 1990: 114)). …